Unlearn Your Pain began with a single patient who was referred to me about 8 years ago. This woman had severe pain in her back and hip. Despite two surgeries, pain medications, injections, and physical therapy, she continued to have pain and walked with a cane. She contacted me after reading a book by Dr. John Sarno entitled The Mindbody Prescription. This book gave her a completely new and different view of her pain and after reading it and applying its principles, she began to feel better. Her pain resolved within a matter of weeks.
Her story led me on a path of seeking to understand this phenomenon and I met with Dr. Sarno, did a great deal of reading, developed a program that used the principles espoused by Dr. Sarno, and started doing scientific research to document the value of these interventions. The result of all this work over the past 8 years is Unlearn Your Pain.
People who suffer chronic pain have real pain, Doctor’s treat the part of the body that’s feeling the pain, but that is rarely the true source of the pain. If medical tests do not reveal any serious structural problem then chronic pain is due to overly sensitized connections between the brain and the body. Overtime they become wired into the brain’s circuitry. The nervous system learns to create chronic pain.
This book is divided into three parts. The first part (consisting of the first four chapters) describes a new and revolutionary understanding of the causes of most chronic pain. Most people with chronic pain do not have a structural, disease process in the area where the pain is being felt. This is surprising, as most doctors would think that if you have a pain in the arm, there must be something wrong with the arm. Although tumors, fractures, infections and inflammation can cause pain, often the cause of chronic pain is learned nerve pathways.
The second part of the Unlearn Your Pain is a chapter that guides the reader through an exploration of their life and helps them to understand what events led to the development of their pain syndrome. Early life stressors commonly set up learned nerve pathways that can be triggered later in life. For example, a young girl who grows up with a very critical, and emotionally abusive father develops pathways of fear, self-doubt, and self-criticism. If she marries a man who treats her in a similar way, those old pathways are easily activated and her body may react to the internal pressures that result. New pain pathways can develop that are her body’s way to alerting her to the “danger” her husband poses to her. The pain is caused by nerve pathways in the absence of a physical disease process.
The third part of the book is a comprehensive guide to healing chronic pain. There is a 4-week program designed to help people fix their lives and stop their pain. Therapeutic writing exercises form a powerful tool to uncover stressful situations and cope with them better. A meditation CD is included and guides the reader towards changing the pain pathways.
Two research studies have now been conducted demonstrating that this program is effective in promoting reductions in pain, even in people who have had pain for many years. The power of the program is that it gives readers the clear message that their pain is real, but curable, and that they have the power to accomplish this goal.